If you haven’t noticed, American’s love kitsch. Pink Flamingos. Genuine souvenir plates from places like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. Black velvet paintings of Jesus and Elvis on top of a semi with flames shooting out of the tail pipes. We love roadside attractions like Wall Drug and South of the Border and all of the odd motels along Route 66, like the place with Teepees and the one with the restaurant in a giant cowboy hat. We love novelty gadgets and songs and birthday cards with a moving mouse singing “Shake Your Bootie.”
So it should come as no surprise that we also like kitschy holidays, celebrations, and remembrances. February is loaded with them. Pull Your Sofa off the Wall Month. Jell-O Week and Love a Mensch Week. Bubble Gum Day (February 3rd) and Read in the Bathtub Day (February 9th)
We have listed some of our favorites for February below:
If you have stopped in Whistle Stop Books or the Cambria Toy Station in the last few years, there is a good chance you stopped for a minute and played with the Newton’s Cradle, a desk toy named after Sir Isaac Newton and based on one of the key principles of Newtonian physics. The “toy” illustrates the laws of inertia (Newton’s 1st Law of Motion), conservation / F=ma (force=mass * acceleration-Newton’s Second Law of Motion), and Newton’s Third Law of Motion: “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Want to know more about Newton’s Cradles? (None of which are appropriate for the average elementary student–above their pay grade, but interesting reading if you want to know more before you talk to the said same six or eight year old)…
Build your own Newton’s Cradle from Scratch (Compliments of the folks at Cornell). If you want to do Newton’s Cradle experiments, but you don’t want to go to the trouble of making one, swing by the Cambria Toy Station and pick up a Newton’s Cradle of your own.
In 1992, Dr. Roberta Bondarbecame the first Neurologist (& Canadian Woman in Space.
In 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became Doctor Blackwell, when she was awarded her M.D. from Geneva Medical College. She was the first female doctor in the United States.
In 1997, Madeleine Albright is sworn in as the first female U.S. Secretary of State. Learn what is involved in being Secretary of State…play “Crisis of Nations” on iCivics(requires Flashplayer). Note, be sure to go through the tutorial before you start. You may also want to explore the other games in iCivics. Suitable for both adults and kids and is a great way to learn how government works!
Michio Kaku, American physicist and academic was born in 1947.
Ilya Prigogine, a Russian-American chemist and physicist, was born in 1917 and won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1077 for his dissipative structures and how they fit into thermodynamic systems and beyond equilibrium. Back to Newton…Prigogine, in his book The End of Certainty argued that “Newtonian physics has now been extended three times, first with the use of the wave function in quantum mechanics, then with the introduction of spacetime in general relativity, and finally with the recognition of indeterminism in teh study of unstable systems. (Wiki) You can thank Prigogine for chaos.
In 2004, the Opportunity Rover (MER-B) landed on the surface of Mars. Opportunity is still scuttling around the Red Desert on Mars.
Polykarp Kusch, German-American Physicist who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in
In 1949, the Palomar Observatory’s Hale Telescope, the largest aperture optical telescope (until 1976 when the BTA-6 was constructed) becomes operational.
And, finally, in 1958, the Lego company patented their bricks, however the original wooden bricks were developed in 1932 by Ole Kirk Christiansen. Take a quick tour of Lego’s new design headquarters and factoryin Billund, Denmark. Better yet, visit.
Physics and Math @ the Depot
Check out some of physics and math toys, kits, and books at the Cambria Toy Station…
The next time you are driving north through eastern Pennsylvania, add a trip to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and take a look at the Automaton by machinist and clockmaker Henri Maillardet, c. 1800. Featured on CBS Good Morning in 2012, Maillardet’s brass automaton has the largest machine memory ever constructed; can produce four images and three poems, two in French and one in English; and provided the part of the inspiration for The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick.
Automatons (automatas), machines designed to duplicate pre-determined (programmed) real life movement using a complex combination of cogs, cams, pistons, gears, belts, pulleys, and other assorted mechanical elements, are not new. References to moving mechanical devices can be found both in Ancient Greece and Ancient China, but the real heyday of automata coincided with the development of increasingly complex clockwork mechanisms during the Renaissance and the early Modern era (1450 to 1900).
Projects & Activities:
Start with a paper model. There are a number of interesting projects available online.
Most automata models are from European, British, and Japanese sources. As with a lot of companies in the modeling industry, ourselves included, a significant portion of the available paper models and instructions can now be purchased online and downloaded. Be sure to read the instructions before you print the model. Different models use different weights of paper, although typically they use a medium weight cover or card stock. Regular 20 or 24 lb. paper is generally too light for paper modeling.
Swing in and check out the Wooden Kits, available at Cambria Toy Station:
Automaton, Paper Engineering, and Mechanics Resources
Paper Engineering from RobIves.com. If you are interested in learning about Paper Engineering and Automata, robives.com is probably the best place to start. A one year subscription ($30.00 US Funds per Year) provides you access to all of their downloadable projects, as well as a wealth of information of paper mechanics. It is well worth the cost of a subscription.
Devices of Wonder. Getty Museum. A great collection of mechanical and optical devices, including how they work. Take a look and interact with all of the devices and then explore the other materials included in the site.
Animations of every mechanical device you can think of from Noah Posner and Thang010146 (Youtube channel). A great collection of short videos that illustrate how mechanics work. From basic cogs and cams to turning a right hand thread–this is an excellent reference resource.
Mechanical-toys.com. Another excellent site that covers the types of mechanisms used in creating automatons, including an excellent overview of tools and construction techniques.
Our favorite automaton:
and how it works:
To learn more about Wintergaten and their Marble Machine, check out their Youtube channel.
Diego Gutierrez, The Americas, c. 1562 (Click on the map to see the full-sized image at the British Library)
In 1562, Diego Gutierrez and Hieronymus Cock created a map of the Spanish Empire for King Phillip II. Gutierrez was a cartographer and cosmographer for the Casa de Contración (a government agency tasked with trying to control Spanish exploration and settlement); Cock was a master etcher and painter in Antwerp, which was then part of the Spanish Netherlands. Cock is also credited with shifting etching and printmaking from a strictly individual endeavor to an industrial approach that relied on a division of labor.
Sea monster in the Atlantic. Image from Library of Congress, 1562 Map of America.
The map, titled Americae Sive Quartae Orbis Partis Nova Et Exactissima Descriptio,” in notable in a number of ways: it was the first to name California and Appalachia (Apalchen); it depicted, rather accurately, a wide range of geographic features, including the Amazon watershed; and functions not only as a map but also as a work of art, most notably because of the embellishments, including monkeys, sea monsters, cannibals, giants, and Phillip II portrayed as Neptune.
The map was meant to describe and delineate the reach of the Spanish Empire, claiming much of the territory in both North and South America as part of the Spanish Empire…ignoring, of course, the claims of prior inhabitants. While the were useful in terms of navigation and understanding of geography, they were (and still remain) a propaganda tool designed to underscore the power of the Iberian peninsula (i.e. Spain, Portugal, and, by marriage, France). As the Library of Congress notes “it is apparent that one of the intentions of preparing the map was to define clearly Spain’s America for the other European powers who might have designs on the region.” Only two copies of this map are known to exist: one resides in the British Library and the other is in the map collection of U.S. Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
Did You Know?…
The Library of Congress has the largest map collection in the world. According to their website, their collection includes “5.5 million maps, 80,000 atlases, 600 reference works, 500+ globes, 3,000 raised relief models, and a large number of cartographic materials, including over 19,000 cds/dvds.” To see all of them, you have to go to Washington D.C., but a fairly good collection (albeit a drop in the bucket) exists online.
Projects & Activities:
1. Create a Memory Map
A memory map is used to capture and record memories relative to local geography. It is a hand-drawn map of a place you are fond of or for which you have strong memories. It might be your grandparent’s farm or your parent’s neighborhood or your school. Unlike regular maps that provide geographic information (roads, place names, geographic features like streams or mountains, etc.), memory maps also include information (stories and comments) and embellishments (illustrations) not typically found on your average map. We’ve provided an example of a memory map below:
Start by drawing a rough map in pencil and then start filling in the detail. Write notes on your map to indicate those areas that trigger strong memories. In the example above, I included the croquet pitch–my grandmother was a demon croquet player who rarely lost and, while generally a very nice person, took inordinate pleasure in sending other folks balls in the opposite direction of where they needed to go. There was a red and white bridge spanning the irrigation ditch that ran along the north side of the house (actually, I think it was, in reality, the west side…but I was somewhat directionally challenged as a child). My grandfather built the bridge since I tried to follow him everywhere, including across the plank they had used to cross the ditch for years.
2. Make a map using a GIS (Geographic Information System) program.
There are a number of online mapping programs, from Google to Grass. One of our favorites, however, is Scribble Maps. It is a free mapping program (basic service) that allows students and teachers play with geography. The site includes some excellent examples. While there are some tutorials, this is really the type of site where you just play.
Map Collections.Library of Congress. An excellent resource for all sorts of historical maps…railroad maps, national park maps, Civil War maps, WWII Military Situation Maps, the Sanborn Insurance maps, and many others.
Maps are especially useful in bringing history to life…whether it is looking at changes in Europe over time or looking at the routing of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
After you watch the above video, take a look at the Driving Through Time site developed by the University of North Carolina.
In both cases, the maps are communicating an idea rather than just providing travel information.
Geography @ the Cambria Toy Station
Check out some of the great geography products we have at the Cambria Toy Station: